Saturday, September 22, 2018

One Week in September

I just received a very public shout out from one of my line sisters on Facebook that has me blushing. She thanked me for some remarks I gave at a high school retreat, based her recommendation to her sister to invite me. And my very broad smile isn't just over what she said (which was truly overwhelming), but it is based on what it meant to me in the context of everything that has been going on of late.

Remember how I spent time this summer contemplating the meaning of life and trying to write my way towards the 42? How I had been rambling on to myself about fear and doubt and whether the choices I had been making with respect to my business were making any difference? How I declared that I am writing a book (something akin to an opus)?

Well, that brings me to this random week in September that began with my participation in a video and ended with the speech I gave to those high school students. At least that is one set of doubts that have been silenced.

I have unconsciously begun to say yes to things that take me outside of my comfort zone. Earlier this year it was accepting an invitation to take a whirlwind solo trip to New York City. This summer it was deciding to rent a bike while on vacation with a baby seat attached. It has also meant stepping up to take on responsibilities other than caregiving and mothering, such as fundraising and jumping back into community work. It has meant taking risks with uncertain outcomes, and accepting in advance that everything will work out in the end.

I volunteered to participate in this video on maternal health. I am certain that I didn't truly think through all of the consequences of sharing such personal details of my life, and after the fact, I have been rather gun shy about broadcasting it. Yet, I am proud to have offered my perspective and hope that someone will be inspired by my experience.

I attended my first Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference in years, which was notable for just allowing me an opportunity to leave the house for "work". Then came the big invitation to be a high school retreat speaker, which was quite a big deal. I responded to a Facebook message from my line sister that asked me for assistance. I naturally assumed that I was being asked for legal advice, so when I received her sister's call, I was completely caught off guard by her request to offer a message of hope to her students. While she was explaining the idea to me, my mind vacillated between why me and how do I politely decline...not for any particular reason, but just because. I asked her why and she offered up her reasons, and I ignored my doubts and said yes.

The choice to say yes was surprising because I wouldn't have imagined that I had anything of value or consequence to say to high school students. I thought about experiences that might relate to where they are and wrote those thoughts down. I worried about over-thinking, about talking too long, and about boring them, and I included all of that in my presentation. Since I am not a natural public speaker, I figured that it would be better to be honest and to use what I would think of as deficits as my strengths. And apparently, it worked.

That is the same philosophy I am bringing to writing this book--just putting what I have to offer on the page. I am already over-thinking, rambling on for too long, and not as exciting or riveting as I would like, but I am writing anyway. I have grand ideas and hope that maybe a few of those come together, but I am also going to ground myself by just doing my best. I am going to keep stepping out on faith alone because staying safe and dry in the boat has kept me safe and dry...and adrift. It's okay to get wet every now and then.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Just Go With It

I've done some crazy out-of-my-comfort-zone stuff lately, and I'm about to keep it going with even more outrageousness. Because dreams aren't always built with blueprints.

I have been restless since the last full week of July when I felt a sense of uneasiness and agitation about my future. I can't say whether these are symptoms of a mid-life crisis, or if I am really taking stock of my life and trying something new, but I had an epiphany of sorts after I wrote about my fear of success. It feels kind of corny to suggest that the stars aligned for me in that moment, but yeah, maybe that is exactly what happened.

That week I decided to stage a photo shoot to promote the new tees for my Busy Black Woman Vote Campaign. I believe my inspiration began with the election results in the Alabama Senate race because all of the post-election analysis suggested that it was the organizing and turnout of black women in the state that helped to elect Doug Jones over the pedophile (and I will never understand why that was even a close contest). Then it was a series of stories about how more women were becoming involved in the political process in response to what happened in 2016, so I designed a new shirt. I ordered a prototype of the shirt and wore it to a rally in February. Then I left it to hang in my bathroom for several weeks to collect dust.

Fast forward to May when I hosted a voter engagement panel at my church. It was poorly attended and I was discouraged by the amount of work I put into planning that went unacknowledged (another issue for another time). But somehow that motivated me to proceed with the shirt, so I placed a limited order. After I wore that shirt to my local primary, I decided to place another order for the full range of sizes, of which there are 18 unsold shirts...

I forgot to mention that I want to donate a portion of the sales to the National Voter Registration Day effort. And I made that donation last week even though I still have 18 unsold shirts.

I also have unsold coffee/tea mugs, shoe bags, and the remainders from the original order of shirts I made several years ago when I had the bright idea to design a shirt to accompany the Busy Black Woman blog. So far this year, I have sold a few, including the one I sold last week.

It was a random decision on a Thursday morning that resulted in this:

(Oh, and by the way, that is another shirt prototype in the photo.) There was also this unexpected turn of events on Twitter the following day. And now I've decided to write a book.

I used to think that the great book I would write would be a work of fiction, but I don't write fiction. I read fiction. And I am such a snob about the types of fiction that I prefer that I believe I would be an even worse perfectionist about any attempt and never get the damn thing written. Because I actually started to write a fictional story several years ago about a well-to-do church family in a southern city and I swear Greenleaf is probably what it could have been if I had just kept at it. (Yes, I believe that).

So I am going to write a book about my life that is not really a memoir or autobiography, but one that maybe folks will read. And I decided to write this declaration out so that I can have it bug me whenever I don't spend enough time working on it. I probably won't be telling too many people about it, but it is my hope that once the effort is complete, I will be in a space where I am no longer afraid of success. Which means for now, I only have to succeed at finishing the manuscript.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Step It Up

So here I am again, using this space to write out my confessions because I still haven't summoned the courage to confide in anyone else about my anxieties.

Straight to the point, the crux of my dilemma is that I am buying into other people's dreams without knowing quite how to get the same kind of investment in mine. Not even from my friends.

Especially not from my friends. I guess I need to specifically ask people to support my efforts, like the high school classmate who asked me to support her book party. Or the teacher whose self-published book I just purchased without knowing if it would actually be useful to my kid. Or the classmate whose granddaughter wants to sell me some makeup (but I haven't called her back yet). Or all of the random stuff I've been buying for the past few days because I am obsessed with buying black-themed images for the children in my life.

I gave away a box of stuff from a subscription service that has been sending out duds lately...I should just cancel, but I keep thinking that I will get something interesting and worthwhile. I decided to give away the two books that I bought as gifts, but forgot that I had ordered a boy-themed puzzle to give away as a gift. So I guess we're keeping that one for a bit until the next wave of birthday parties begins. My brother thinks that the backpack I bought my niece was too expensive since she could just have a plain one from Costco. I bought custom note cards for two friends for their birthdays. I probably have more stuff coming, most of these items purchased to support other black businesses.

And I am proud to be in this mode and to have the means to do so. I just wish I could get myself together to see the same success.

I keep thinking that I am afraid of failure, but that isn't it since I have halfway put myself out there. Failure wouldn't even be the worst thing, since I am still obscure enough to simply fade away (and I've done that). I am afraid to succeed.

And I am in tears because I can't believe that. I won't believe it. Because that voice inside of me keeps telling me to move forward, take the chance. And it is getting louder and more persistent than the other one that's telling me to stay where I am.

The devil is a liar. The devil is a liar. The devil is a liar.

Stay tuned (and pray for me)...

Friday, July 20, 2018

Talking to Myself

I haven't written in this space in quite a while, but that's because I've been "building" over at Busy Black Woman. And I can't say for sure what that means.

I have 128 followers on the FB page. I get on average 20 reads of anything I write on that blog. I'm up to 18 followers on Instagram. Every now and then, I post something that reaches more than 25 people on Facebook (today I reached more than 120 people by posting an article about Pat McGrath). Little by little; bird by bird.

I am still very restless and anxious and unsure about the future. I know that this is the precise moment when someone should send me one of those memes about a person just about to have a breakthrough, but they quit and so it never happens. But since that hasn't happened (I checked), I will share that Ann Taylor Loft is having a sale and so is Nordstrom.

But then I found this:

But I have several dilemmas. I don't have a clue what my breakthrough is supposed to be. Do I want to sell some tee shirts? Yes. I have a few good reasons: (1) I don't want to monetize my blog with third party ads; (2) I think I have something clever to say; and (3) I'm making an investment in my work and I can't afford to give everything away. Do I want to be a tee shirt vendor? Not really, because I am a writer. But, I am trying to build a following, and I heard a voice that told me to do this. And I am not kidding. I listened to a voice that told me to invest in myself in this way.

Of course, in writing this, I am admitting that I have doubts. I am beginning to think that I was just telling myself to try something different and bold. And maybe this will be a disaster that finds me giving away free tee shirts to my handful of followers at some point in the future.

I needed to write that out--to admit that I am having big time anxiety because I am too proud to tell anyone. I don't have any safe havens for sharing my feelings anymore. This has been true for a long time, which is how and why I write as much as I do, because in any given 24 hour period, the only other person in my orbit is a three year old who doesn't really talk to me either. And while I am convinced she understands me very well, her unwillingness to express herself is just another example of how lonely and pathetic I feel.

Despite my doubts and anxieties, I am serious about investing in myself. I will keep the faith, even though it is smaller than a mustard seed right now because what choice do I have? What do I have to lose other than what I already don't have? And I could gain something...

Because I am a writer. And that is why I am still writing even if I haven't sold anything. I may not be a tee shirt/mug/shoe bag vendor, but I have a message that I want people to receive, even if I have to give some of it away for free. You might get blessed with a tee or a mug, or you might be blessed by something you read. And maybe that will spur you to buy a tee that you might remember to wear to some event where someone sees you. And that person might inquire about the shirt and you will tell them about the blog and it happens to be a day that I have been particularly poignant about some random topic. And maybe that person can change my life. Or maybe you might take your free mug to work and leave it unwashed in the common area where someone comes along and wonders who left behind this cool mug. And maybe that coworker swipes it, so you have to order another one (or you threaten to issue an inter-office beat-down). Either way, another new person discovers the blog.

And so on, and so on...

Friday, March 09, 2018

Struggle Bus

I had a rough week.

I know that it happens, and I guess I was hoping that the wave I was riding after my impromptu Momcation in the city a couple of weeks ago was going to take a little longer to crash. But it did and it feels like everything is upended.

My kid is going through pacifier withdrawal, which looks and feels a lot like crack withdrawal (as if I know anything about that). It is really, really one of the more challenging phases of development we've faced so far. We had been trying to phase it out for at least a year, but we hit a patch where she was depending on it more and more so finally, we just stopped cold turkey. I looked at the calendar and noticed how close we've come to her third birthday and then made a choice--either we make progress on potty training or we dump the pacifier.

I assure you that those choices are on the same level. Of course that means I have a child who I'm still trying to potty train after a full year and have yet to make any real progress.

I have had other issues, and since I'm in a confessional mood, I keep having the same argument with the Hub that keeps ending in the same stalemate. This has gone on for far too long. And despite my hope that he finally got me this week when he finally made a statement that sounded every bit like he has been paying attention...he backslid.

I am feeling very unappreciated by my friends. VERY. And so much so that it triggered a lot of anger that dredged up all of the same emotions I dealt with last year with my brother. So I am angry and sad and depressed (but this time around, I have no appetite for anything other that coffee or soda). And writing about being depressed and sad and angry again.

So I'm not quite sure if I am riding at the back of the struggle bus, driving it, or running after it. But I am still going. And oddly enough I feel a little more in control by having written this all down. Even if I stay on this course, and things stay the same it feels better to admit that things suck right now.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Do It Anyway

I started this post at the BBW blog, but quickly had to conquer my anxiety to post based on a personal deadline I had set. I am re-launching the #HBCUJustGive campaign and got some new promotional ideas to assist in that effort. The big plunge was recording and then posting a companion video.

I am standing at the water's edge with a toe skimming the foam of the crashing waves. I sometimes venture in to the point where the water reaches my calves, but most of the time I am content to walk along the shore line. But tomorrow I plan to dive in.

(I am not sure flowery writing is my thing...)

I have been planning to do something big, but I have been stymied by the familiar doubts that always seem to erect a barrier between my visions and reality. The same thing happened the other night when I spent half the day stressing about whether to wear my new BBW tee prototype (I wore it). The same thing happened back in November after I ordered a box full of mugs that I was reluctant to advertise. The same thing happened a few years ago when I debuted the initial BBW tee and got dissatisfied with the printing on a few of the shirts. Let's not even address my writing process...

I always get in my own way. Perfection is the enemy of the good.

I even designed a shirt for this specific issue, which says to go for it, to do it anyway, to take the plunge, go the extra mile, put your best foot forward, and whatever other maxims are supposed to be encouraging in moments like this. DO IT (with no infringement on Nike's trademark, I might add).

Because you only live once. Because someone else will do it. Because that other person's effort won't even come close to your vision. Because you will always wonder what if. Because if not you, then who and if not now, then when?

A friend asked me to articulate an objective for what I am doing and to be honest with her and myself, I have no idea. I believe I just want to feel like I am doing something other than just watching life go by. After nearly ten years of being a caregiver, and then more than 15 years of working but never making any real professional progress (or enough money), I know that it is time for me to take the extreme risk of speaking for myself and walking on my own. I have had this dream of being a writer for a long time, probably much longer than I even realized but laboring in obscurity or as a ghost writer isn't enough. For all intents and purposes, I am a writer. I write all of the time. And I am a recognized writer. I am just not acknowledged as such in any formal fashion.

So instead of trying to stumble into recognition by random twists of fate, I am trying to build a brand, which is something that I would not have said back in 2005 when I first formally began to blog. Yet, I hope that I can build a following and create some recognition for my voice. I look around and I see that there are plenty of people in the world who can do what I do for better or for worse. I am not in competition with them though, because I am simply looking for my tribe. Looking for others who can relate to my struggles, my ideas, and who are willing to support my dreams.

As I have been on this journey, I have learned to adjust my expectations, which is why after recording several takes and then encountering computer issues that made it difficult for me get the perfect take, I did something that I am learning to become more comfortable doing. I went in with the best take I had and even if only a few people see it, I posted it. But I plan to try again, so perhaps I have other opportunities to hit my own very high bar.

My final point is that by taking this risk (which is not nearly as great as it felt in the build up), I am investing in myself. That is something I haven't really done in a LONG time. I have often taken small sure steps towards a particular goal, but rarely have I ever just jumped without knowing what would happen next. Even when I had my daughter, I feel like the risks were manageable (because until recently, I thought my greater challenge had been in caring for my Mom). And that is exactly why this was such a big deal--I usually have an eagle eye for the road ahead. I have NO IDEA what will become of this, but for the first time, I am okay with not knowing.

So here I go!